The Queen’s Speech, this year delivered by Prince Charles, consists of 38 Bills. Yet, the long-awaited Employment Bill is absent.
In 2019, the government announced it would bring forward a new Employment Bill to improve people’s rights at work. But, despite committing to the bill on at least 20 occasions, ministers have shelved the legislation.
Since, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has accused the government of “turning its back” on working people, warning that the government’s broken promise to boost workers’ rights will see “bad bosses celebrating” across the country.
The union also warns that the new seafarer minimum wage plans are “unworkable” and will not prevent a repeat of the P&O Ferries incident.
In response to the absent mention of the Employment Bill, “[u]rgent support for those most at risk for rising inflation is required, including the immediate uprating of Universal Credit payments,” says Director of the Work Foundation at Lancaster University, Ben Harrison.
“And the fact remains that the Government cannot hope to deliver on its ambition to Level Up the country without driving up employment standards and increasing the number of higher quality, better paid and more secure jobs on offer,” adds Mr Harrison.
What are the implications of its absence in the speech?
“The UK’s employment market is not fit for purpose in the current economic landscape and APSCo has warned that this long-awaited Bill needs to be pushed forward swiftly if the country is to recover from the impact of the pandemic and Brexit. While it was made clear in today’s speech that the Government’s priority is to strengthen the economy, the absence of the Employment Bill and no clarity around the Single Enforcement Body will be a limitation on achieving this,” warns Global Public Policy Director at APSCo, Tania Bowers.
“It’s clear that the future of the labour market needs to be flexible, dynamic and fair, but current legislation is not designed to support this,” adds Ms Bowers.
TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady says:
“After the P&O scandal, dragging our outdated labour laws into the 21st century has never been more urgent.
“But by shelving the employment bill, ministers have sent a signal that they are happy for rogue employers to ride roughshod over workers’ rights.
“Enough is enough. This is a government that just doesn’t get it – from the cost-of-living emergency to the insecure work epidemic.
“People can’t wait for greater rights and security at work – they need it now.”
What needs to be done?
The TUC suggests that “[o]nly stronger employment legislation that boosts worker protections and stops companies firing on the spot will prevent another P&O-type scandal.”
“Regulation of the Umbrella market is also needed if the UK’s economy is to be strengthened. Government must futureproof employment legislation and consider steps such as Single Enforcement Body (SEB) licensing of the “umbrella” market, the mandatory use of client accounts and the introduction of statutory compliance codes,” suggests Ms Bowers.
“As the UK economy struggles to recover post-Covid, it is crucial that we continue to build and borrow vital skills by any means necessary. Only then, can we create a dynamic, flexible, and future-proof labour market with enough skilled workers to enable the country to build back better post-pandemic. This absence of the Employment Bill as many predicted, raises concerns that the skills agenda is beginning to slip down the list of priorities for the Government,” adds Ms Bowers.
What changes do employers need to be aware of?
Whilst the Employment Bill was not mentioned, this does not mean that there will be no changes for employers to consider.
The Speech mentioned several times the Government’s focus on sustainability. Businesses may want to review their ESG strategies and ensure they are meeting public expectations with regards to “green” practices.
Additionally, the Brexit Freedom Bill and Data Reform could, in time, cause significant disruption to businesses. Any changes to such legislation will require employers to complete a thorough review of their current policies and procedures and ensure these are updated and communicated with the wider workforce.